Daphne Gradidge, born 1953, studied at Winchester School of Art from 1972-73, followed by theatre design at Nottingham 1973-76 and as a post-graduate at the Slade 1979-81.
She worked initially in theatre, then on the painting and restoration of murals in public and private buildings, with two years as artist-in-residence at the Royal Hampshire County Hospital in Winchester.
Since the 1990s she has focused on her personal interests, in studio-based painting.
BH: What led you to become an Artist? Were there any pivotal moments in your education or experience when you were growing up that inspired you to become an artist? Perhaps you had a tutor or friend or parent who encouraged you? Or perhaps discovering the life and work of another artist inspired you in some way?
Daphne: Sitting on a rug in my grandparents garden drawing a flower it suddenly occurred to me that I should consciously observe the way it was formed instead of doing my usual random all purpose flower scribble sitting on a straight line for a stem, and that seems a notable point in my artistic life. I’m not sure what age I was, but young, and the flower was definitely an orange crocosmia. I always enjoyed drawing and it was encouraged, presumably because it kept me quiet and occupied, apart from anything else. I discovered a marvellous source of paper in hardback copies on the bookshelves, when I realised there was often a blank sheet of paper just inside the front and back covers, which you could tear out without affecting the look of the book at all. I can only think it never occurred to adults to question where I was getting my supply because there were always other more important things going on in the household, and I only hope now there were no rare first editions I vandalised.
Daphne: With myopia I am pre-disposed to peer closely at things, which means I tend to be very aware of small detail. The two panels by the ‘Master of Saint Giles’ (c.1500) in the National Gallery are amazingly detailed, and I get as close as I am able without incurring the wrath of the attendants and feel I am almost there and looking into another world with interesting plants and textiles. With other works the only thing to do is stand back and take in the overall message but with these richly detailed paintings it is possible to do both.
The Master of Saint Giles was apparently active in Paris in the years around 1500. He is named from the two paintings in the National Gallery Collection, which show episodes from the life of Saint Giles. These panels are related to two others (now in the National Gallery of Art, Washington), showing episodes from the life of a Bishop Saint and the baptism of Clovis. The four panels probably formed part of an altarpiece and are notable for the views they contain of sites in and near Paris.
The painter is evidently Netherlandish by training, but may have been of either French or Netherlandish origin.
With thanks to The National Gallery for the above.
BH: What is your favourite Museum or Cultural Institution? Why? Do you have a favourite work of art or object there?
Daphne: I nearly always find myself in the National Gallery at some point on a visit to London and very often prefer to look at the early work in the Sainsbury Wing. The Bridget Riley mural (a favourite artist) of overlapping circles in the Sunley Room a few years ago was mesmerising and I spent ages trying to work out the rules of the pattern. Also I find the variety of work in The National Portrait Gallery fascinating and particularly like to see Michael Craig Martin’s portrait of Zaha Hadid with the ever changing areas of colour. (Also the shiny polished plaster wall in the cafe downstairs.)
BH: Imagine that Lockdown 3.0 doesn’t exist for a moment – if you could be in London for a day, what would your day look like?
Daphne: Pre Covid I would always try to plan my London trips to coincide with a meeting of the Art Workers’ Guild on a Thursday evening, and walk between galleries and exhibitions wherever possible, and then on to Bloomsbury. The British Museum used to be a good stopping point in the days when it had late night opening on a Thursday, for a coffee in the main courtyard and some random sketching of items in the collections but sadly and inconveniently they stopped that and you had to leave by 6pm!
BH: Are you on Instagram? Do you enjoy using the platform? Has it changed the way you interact with an audience, and do you find yourself tempted to produce work especially for an Instagram audience?
Daphne: I have resolutely not been signing up to social media platforms despite advice, so am intrigued by the idea of producing things especially for Instagram and how it would differ from work done without a thought of deliberately appealing to that particular audience.
BH: What has been your favourite ‘series’ or artwork that you have made to date? Why?
Daphne: I seem to have always worked in series because inevitably one idea leads to another and variations on a theme, whether incorporating landscape or found objects in arrangements. I think I was particularly struck by my first “Drawing With String” paintings because I really felt they so very much incorporated all the aspects of pattern, movement and detail that interested me.
Red Blue Rectangles
BH: Have you been able to get to the studio during Lockdown, or have you commandeered a room in the house as your Lockdown studio?
Daphne: Luckily my workroom is in my house anyway which is both good and bad. Good in that I can do work anywhen and every day if I feel like it, but bad because it is so easy to be distracted by the garden and other things.
Clockwise: Red Sun, Red Green Balance, Yellow, Green Horizon